Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The legislature’s Italian-American Legislative Caucus today presented longtime Westporter Joe Mioli—co-owner of the Westport Pizzeria and who served as the town’s state representative from 2004 to 2010—with an official General Assembly citation for his “promotion and prosperity of the Italian culture and history.” Mioli has been active with the Italian-American caucus’ education fund. Joining Mioli were his successor, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, and state Sen. Toni Boucher, who represents a portion of Westport. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Westport Democrats tonight heard about plans for a march through Westport on Sunday “to defend democracy.”
It is officially billed as “CT on the Move March to Defend Democracy — One Small State, One Big Voice.”
The Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) is a co-sponsor of the event that will feature addresses by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
One of the organizers of the march, Lauren Soloff, told a meeting of the DTC at Town Hall tonight the event will go on rain or shine.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (r) told a meeting of the Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) tonight that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “doesn’t have the votes” to push through his plan to make municipalities responsible for paying a portion of teacher pensions. “It’s not going to happen,” he said, adding that Democrats will have to find revenues elsewhere. At the same meeting, Board of Education Chair Michael Gordon said the board will seek full or partial restoration of the $1.67 million cut from its budget last week by the Board of Finance. “There’s not a scenario in the world that we could sustain a $1.67 million cut” without seriously impacting children’s education, he said. The finance board will consider the request at its Wednesday, April 5 meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Monday, March 20, 2017
By Ana Radelatwww.ctmirror.org
Washington — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said today Connecticut natives Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager, and Roger Stone, a self-described Trump campaign consultant, are likely to be key witnesses as the House Intelligence Committee continues its investigation of Russian hacking and the U.S. elections.
“I certainly would put him at the top of the list,” Himes, D-4th District, said of Manafort, a New Britain native.
As far as Stone, who comes from Norwalk, Himes told reporters, ”He had a bizarre ability to predict what Wikileaks was going to do next.”
Last summer, Wikileaks released hacked e-mails of the Democratic National Committee that may have hurt Hillary Clinton’s efforts to win the White House.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, today questioned FBI Director James Comey at the outset of a committee hearing looking into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Comey said there was no information supporting President Trump’s tweet that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Among the communities Himes represents is Westport, where Comey is a former resident and an officer of Westport’s Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge fund firms. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo from CNN
Sunday, March 19, 2017
The League of Women Voters of Westport today held a meeting on LWV advocacy success stories. Participants heard effectives ways of advocating, including sending post cards, letters, or making phone calls to politicians or others. Taking part in the session at the Suzuki School of Music, 246 Post Road East were Jane Eyes, Alyson Rivard, and Sheila Ward, LWV president. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Saturday, March 18, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has filed to run again in November with Board of Finance member Jennifer Tooker as his running mate, he confirmed today.
And Board of Finance Vice Chair Michael Rea said today he has formed an exploratory committee to run for first selectman. He said he filed paperwork on Friday with the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC).
Marpe and Tooker made their filing March 9 as candidates with no need to form a committee. Treasurer was listed as Judith Domkowski. Despite being queried since then, Marpe did not acknowledge his intentions until a site search today disclosed the filing.
Rea’s Michael Rea for Westport Committee filing listed RTM member Donna Chapman as his treasurer. Although no office was specified, Rea confirmed it was for first selectman. He did not name a running mate.
UPDATE The moderator of Westport’s nonpartisan Representative Town Meeting (RTM) has rejected a petition seeking to bar members from serving on either the Democratic or Republican Town Committees.
In an email sent Friday, Eileen Lavigne Flug told lead petitioner Morley Boyd that her action was based on advice from Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly.
“Based on the Assistant Town Attorney’s opinion that the RTM does not have the authority to adopt the requested rule, I have determined that this is not a legitimate matter for the RTM to address, and I will not be placing this item on an RTM agenda,” Flug said.
Responding to Flug’s email, Boyd today sent an email rejecting her explanation. He said the Town Charter “does not state that only ‘legitimate’ matters may be placed on the RTM agenda” and that he expected it to be placed on the next meeting’s agenda.
Friday, March 17, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
The legislature’s Transportation Committee today approved a bill that would return tolls to Connecticut highways after more than three decades.
But the measure, which also would reduce the retail gasoline tax by 2.5 cents, faces a steep uphill climb if it ever is to become law.
Democrats hold a slim edge on the panel, which voted 19-16 along party lines to send the measure to the House of Representatives.
The gasoline tax, which currently stands at 25 cents per gallon, would be reduced by a half penny annually over five years under the bill.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport’s Board of Finance tonight gave provisional approval to First Selectman Jim Marpe’s 2017-18 revised $78 million budget.
It is $1.05 million lower than Marpe’s original budget, which was already a 1.44 percent decrease from the current year.
Brian Stern, finance board chairman, said the reduction was provisional and not definite until all the numbers are tallied with the Board of Education’s revised budget to be presented Thursday night.
He said the finance board is likely to ask Marpe in August for an “emergency tax increase” once the state budget is completed, the town has final budget figures for this fiscal year, and there is a need for additional revenue.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Due to the state’s fiscal uncertainty, Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer tonight recommended $977,000 in cuts from the schools’ proposed 2017-18 operating budget.
Board members later suggested the number be reduced to $967,000. The board will consider the recommendations before finalizing the proposed budget—possibly at $114,384,346—before sending it to the Board of Finance.
The finance board had recommended the school system cut an extra $1.7 million.
“If we thought they were 100 percent acceptable, they would have been in the original budget,” Palmer said about her proposed cuts.
By James Lomuscio
First Selectman Jim Marpe said today he is closely monitoring but not joining Ridgefield’s threat to sue the state over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s push to municipalities to pay 30 percent of teacher pensions.
Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi threatened legal action last week if Malloy moves ahead with his proposal. Other towns have reportedly gotten behind Ridgefield.
“I’m in touch with First Selectman Marconi and a number of other town chief executive officers in the area who are exploring this option, and I will monitor their activity,” Marpe said.
“There is some belief it’s not legally possible for a municipality to sue the state, so it would be interesting what the research finds,” he added.
By Mark Pazniokaswww.ctmirror.org
Deirdre Daly, who was among the 46 Obama administration holdovers ousted Friday as U.S. attorneys, was reinstated today and will remain in the post until October, a gesture by the Trump administration that will give her 20 years of federal service and retirement benefits.
“I thank the attorney general and the administration for affording me the opportunity to remain as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut so that I might complete 20 years of service to the Department of Justice in October,” Daly said.
“I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the residents of Connecticut in my remaining time, and I will focus on an orderly transition as I complete what has been a rewarding tenure in the Office.”
Daly was one of at least two U.S. attorney’s reinstated today to allow them to complete 20 years of service. Richard Hartunian, the U.S. attorney for Central District of New York, issued a statement saying he will remain until June.
Friday, March 10, 2017
President Trump announced today that he will nominate Westport resident Scott Gottlieb, a conservative physician and businessman with deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry, to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
A physician and partner at one of the world’s largest venture capital funds and a former deputy commissioner at the FDA, his name surfaced in December as one of the front runners for the post. (See WestportNow Dec. 12, 2016)
If confirmed, Gottlieb would bring a strong pro-industry, deregulatory approach to an agency that Trump has criticized as being overly restrictive, The Washington Post reported.
“But he is also likely to support one of the agency’s basic functions: to ensure that drugs are proven safe and effective before they are sold,” the newspaper said.
Thursday, March 09, 2017
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said today that he is exploring a run as the Democratic candidate for Westport first selectman in November.
“It’s just an exploratory thing,” said Steinberg whose committee titled “Jonathan for Westport” was posted on the State Election Enforcement Committee (SEEC) site on Friday, March 3.
The online SEEC site, a state pilot program in which Westport is one of 20 Connecticut municipalities participating in the name of election transparency, states that Steinberg is looking at “a municipal and other office for the Town of Westport.” It does not specifically say the first selectman’s office.
It also lists Allen Bomes, a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) as the committee’s treasurer.
By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomaswww.ctmirror.org
Connecticut’s small towns today pressed the General Assembly to take the governor’s proposal to shift a third of teacher pension costs onto communities “off the table” in state budget deliberations — but administration officials held firm on their plan.
And while some legislators already have said — privately or publicly — that the controversial plan effectively is dead, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns said the looming threat alone has paralyzed local budget preparations.
COST also raised a new legal argument that could force Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to choose between his public description of the pension billing plan, and his legal definition.
In other words, either stop describing it as a “spending cut” and admit it is a new $400 million annual fee imposed on cities and towns, or risk a legal battle.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
State officials today sparred for the second day in a row over whether to give communities more time to adopt their local budgets — a fight that left the extension issue in limbo following a 90-minute Senate debate.
Democratic leaders announced early in the afternoon they expected to adopt a bill in the Senate that would suspend municipal budget adoption deadlines set in local charter or ordinance until June 30.
The 36-member Senate is divided between Democrats and Republicans, but Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, can cast a 37th and tie breaking vote. In addition, Republican Sen. Tony Guglielmo of Stafford was absent from today’s Senate session.
But after a 90-minute debate, Democrats tabled their bill and accused Republican senators of waging a filibuster.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
The partisan divide at the state Capitol was in full view Monday as a proposal to give communities more time to adopt their local budgets polarized Democrats and Republicans.
Less than two hours after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his fellow Democrats in legislative leadership invited municipal leaders to help them craft a measure extending the time for municipal budget adoption, Republicans called it “self-serving” and urged Democrats instead to get the state’s fiscal house in order.
Democratic leaders quickly fired back, charging Republicans with reflexively rejecting a “common-sense proposal” that cities and towns need.
Meanwhile, the state’s two largest municipal coalitions endorsed the concept of an extension measure. But one of the two, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, also agreed that state officials also could help communities by adopting a state budget soon.
Sunday, March 05, 2017
First Selectman Jim Marpe and state Rep Jonathan Steinberg told a meeting of the Save Westport Now party today that state officials are being elusive about the future of the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge in Saugatuck.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) is deciding whether to replace or rehabilitate the bridge, built in 1884, and the oldest surviving movable bridge in Connecticut.
“This is not just a neighborhood issue, but one that affects the whole town,” Marpe told the annual meeting at the home of Connie and Stewart Greenfield attended by about 50 persons. “I live in Greens Farms, and congestion on that road has gotten worse” with people bypassing I-95.
“The bridge impedes traffic, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We don’t want trucks coming over it and down our roads.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, maple syrup maker aficionado and member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted this photo today after the tapping controversy hit the Washington headlines: “BREAKING: HIMES ADMITS TO TAPPING. “I know this will end up being sticky, but yes, I did the tapping.” Earlier, he replied to White House Press Secretary’ Sean Spicer’s tweet calling for a Congressional investigation into whether “executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016” this way: “As a member of the committee onto which you’ve dumped this mess, I look forward to seeing your evidence.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jahimes/Twitter.com photo
Friday, March 03, 2017
By Tom Condonwww.ctmirror.org
In one of his recent meetings with residents of Hartford’s suburbs, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin observed, as many have before, that if Connecticut were created today, it almost assuredly would not be with 169 cities and towns.
His point was that the state’s ancient and fractionalized political organization, combined with its heavy reliance on property taxes, stacks the deck against hard-pressed Hartford, which has high needs and less taxable property than some of its suburbs.
He asserted that the region’s fate is tied to the health of the core city, and asked for support at the Capitol and for more cooperative sharing of services or resources among towns, sometimes known as “regionalism.”
This notion has never been terribly popular in a state where a tradition of local authority can be traced back to its Puritan settlers. But while autonomous municipal government — home rule — is the norm and likely to remain so, regional cooperation has been inching ahead, especially in the past decade. Towns are sharing such services as building inspection, permitting, property revaluation, solid waste management and others.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
About 100 persons tonight attended a Westport Country Playhouse forum on a new way to elect the president. Sponsors of the event, “The State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President,” included the League of Women Voters of Westport and National Popular Vote Connecticut.. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
By Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
House and Senate Democrats called today for exempting all Social Security from the state income tax, a move that could save seniors $45 million per year.
But with major deficits — that far exceed the proposed income tax cut — projected for the next two fiscal years, Democratic leaders conceded paying for this tax relief will not be easy.
And while Democrats said they’re hopeful Republicans — who’ve proposed such a tax break in the past — would support it again, one GOP leader said it would hinge on whether the next state budget is free of any tax hikes.
“Connecticut is a great place to live, work and raise a family, so it should also be a great place to retire and enjoy the culture and quality of life we are known for,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern said tonight that a “modest” tax increase is likely despite the fiscally responsible proposed town and school budgets.
“I do think we will have a modest tax increase in the fall,” he said after hearing details of the budgets tonight.
The reason? Stern only had to point to Hartford, and harsh words flowed.
“Hartford should quit asking us to fill the gap for their own ineptitude,” Stern said about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan for towns to pay one-third of teacher pensions.
Having won a $750,000 one-time upfront payment, the Westport Board of Finance tonight gave its approval to a land swap with developer David Waldman on Elm Street.
Selectman Avi Kaner outlined the deal to the board, calling it a “triple win” for the town.
In addition to the one-time payment, the town will receive approximately $38,000 in annual taxes and gain nine parking spaces, he said.
More importantly, Kaner said, the town will benefit by the beautification of Elm Street as part of its overall downtown renewal.
An overflow audience, including Police Chief Foti Koskinas (2nd l), watch from the Town Hall lobby tonight as the Board of Finance (BOF) met in a packed Room 201. First Selectman Jim Marpe presented a combined town-school budget of $206 million, a 0.59 percent increase. In light of no funds coming from Hartford, BOF Chair Brian Stern warned that he could see a “modest” tax increase in the fall once the state funding picture becomes clearer. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
By Ana Radelatwww.ctmirror.org
Washington — Connecticut lawmakers have joined other Democratic colleagues in inviting guests to President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress today — people who will serve as symbolic rebukes to the new president’s policies.
The delegation has invited constituents with ties to Trump’s suspended “Muslim ban,” a retired school principal who enthusiastically supports public schools, a hospital administrator concerned about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a police chief who supports gun control.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, for instance, has invited Fadi Kassar, a Jordanian native who was caught up in Trump’s executive order that barred immigration from seven Muslim majority countries in the Middle East.
Because of that ban, which has been blocked by a federal court, Kassar’s wife and children were temporarily detained at customs in New York.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
By Ana Radelatwww.ctmirror.org
Washington — White House press secretary Sean Spicer today took aim at Gov. Dannel Malloy, saying the Connecticut chief executive “chooses not to follow the duly passed laws of this nation” in telling the state’s police forces they don’t have to cooperate with the Trump administration’s new push to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“The idea that Governor Malloy would not want the law followed as enacted by Congress or by the Connecticut legislature in any fashion seems to be concerning, right?” Spicer said. “Whether you’re a governor or mayor or the president, laws are passed in this country and we expect people and our lawmakers and our law enforcement agencies to follow and adhere to the laws as passed by the appropriate level of government.”
The press secretary’s remarks, made in response to a “Skype question” from a Connecticut journalist, were a reaction to Malloy’s release Wednesday of a memo to state police departments that said, “Law enforcement should not take action that is solely to enforce federal immigration law.”
“Law enforcement is not required to collect information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status and there is no state or federal mandate to do so,” the governor said.
The Westport Country Playhouse will host a forum on a new way to elect the president on Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m.
Sponsors of the event, “The State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President,” include the League of Women Voters of Westport and National Popular Vote Connecticut.
Panelists include: Mark Albertson, historian; Hendrik Hertzberg, essayist; Luther Weeks, CT Voters Count, with the moderator,Victoria Bassetti, of the Brennan Center for Justice.
The event will include an opportunity for questions from the public, an announcement said.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes stopped by the Westport Arts Center today to make his declaration and have his portrait taken by “As We Are!” exhibition photographer Xenia Gross. The exhibition features portraits of people who have contributed personal material to express their individual views and experiences with labels and the power of words. In response to the prompt, “I am more than___,” Himes wrote:”...the words that I use, often imperfectly.” The Himes photo will be added to the exhibition. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Leslie LaSala for WestportNow.com